Back in March I interviewed Daily Show writer Daniel Radosh about his book Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture. It’s a pretty great book offering a hilarious, honest outsider’s assessment of American Christianity. I recommend it to Christians and non-Christians alike.
Anyway, this weekend Radosh posted at The Nervous Breakdown an unpublished chapter from Rapture Ready! about the super-literalist position taken by a few believers who are geocentrists — they believe that young-earth creationists are liberals, and that if you’re going to take the Bible literally, you’d better go whole-hog. So all that Copernican stuff about the earth revolving around the sun? It’s bunk. Because that’s not the picture of the universe painted by the Bible.
Here’s a sample, which introduces Gerardus Dingeman Bouw, the nation’s leading proponent of geocentrism and the president of the Association for Biblical
In 1992, Bouw self-published a 400-page book titled Geocentricity
(the ABA prefers this term, to distinguish its discipline from
classical geocentrism, which postulated a patently absurd universe of
concentric, independent spheres). Geocentricity lays out not
only a defense of geocentrism, but a reminder of the stakes. The Bible,
Bouw writes, is replete with passages that describe, in plain language,
an immobile earth encircled by the sun and stars; there are 26 verses
that speak of the sun “going down” or “setting,” and 30 that describe it
as “rising.” These are not mere figures of speech, warns Bouw. “If God
can not be taken literally when he writes of the ‘rising of the sun,’
then how can he be taken literally in writing of the ‘rising of the
Mainstream creationists (if I may
be allowed the term) argue that the seemingly geocentric passages are
merely God using the “language of appearance,” or divinely-inspired men
speaking from a human perspective. This is the liberal tendency that
makes geocentrists apoplectic. “Phenomenological or anthropocentric,”
…either God inerrently
inspired the wording or He did not; either the Bible is trustworthy or
it is not. There is no middle ground. There is no room for compromise.
After all, both the anthropocentric theory of inspiration and the
phenomenological-language theory are forms of accommodation where God is
said to accommodate his wording to the understanding of the common man.
Good though that may sound on the surface, accommodation still
maintains that God goes along with the accepted story even though he
really does not believe it.
It does not help when, for instance, the
Answers in Genesis web site caps its dismissal of geocentrism with the
observation that “the question of the earth’s physical position is less
important than the spiritual reality of God’s love for his people” —
precisely what Christians who accept evolution say about the physical
creation of man. “It’s inconsistent,” Bouw told me. “you can’t say that
one part of it is more credible than another part just simply because
you feel uncomfortable with what it says there.”
I have to admit: I’ve had the same thoughts. Not that I’m an advocate of geocentrism. I’m pretty sure that was disproven a few centuries ago, and hardly any sane people question it. But geocentrism (and a flat earth) are described in the Bible because the biblical writers had a pre-scientific understanding of the universe. That mindset also explains the poetry and day-by-day chronology of the creation story. But if we’re supposed to take that part of the Bible literally, why not the geocentric parts, too? Why are the young-earth creationists fighting one battle and not the other?
Worth noting: in the excerpt, Radosh quotes a couple of the geocentric “experts” who reveal that quite a few of the leading creationists DO believe in geocentrism for that very reason — because it’s “biblical” — but they keep quiet about it because “they don’t want to be embarrassed in front of the scientific world.”
Both the young-earthers and the geocentrists base their beliefs on an inerrant understanding of the Bible. They say to do otherwise is to step upon a slippery slope toward atheism — but where does it start? Is it when you deny geocentrism? Or is it when you deny a literal 7-day creation?
Al Mohler has said
that you can either believe in the biblical account of human origins or
or you can believe in evolution, but you can’t believe in both. Couldn’t the geocentrists use exactly the same argument about the position of the earth in the universe?
The literal 7-day creationists posit that a lot of the problems in the world today stem from the fact that mankind no longer sees itself as a special creation, because we’ve lost sight of the Garden of Eden story. Couldn’t the geocentrists use exactly the same argument because we’ve lost the belief that the earth is at the center of the universe? Doesn’t that also devalue human life as the apex of creation?
I’m not trying to make a case for geocentrism. But I think logical consistency is important. If you’re going to argue that we should take the Bible at its word on how the universe came to be, isn’t the most thoroughly biblical position to also believe in geocentrism? How do the creationists justify their position but dismiss geocentricity as unscientific and embarrassing? Why is modern science acceptable for the position of the earth but not for the history of the earth?
So many questions. If we’re on a slippery slope, we need to decide exactly where that slope becomes slippery. Right?